Translation of 'Finnegans Wake' sells in China
BEIJING (AP) - The Chinese version is no easier to read than the original, the loyal-minded translator assures, but James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" has still sold out its initial run in China- with the help of some big urban billboards.
Wang Weisong, chief editor of the Shanghai company that published the first Chinese translation of the Joyce classic, coyly said at a recent forum in Shanghai that he wasn't expecting any success for the book, but that the modest initial run of 8,000 copies has sold out since it went on sale Dec. 25. He said more copies are being printed to meet demand.
Dai Congrong, who spent eight years translating it, told the same forum that she didn't fully grasp the novel but that it was supposed to be difficult, and that she kept the Chinese version that way.
"I would not be faithful to the original intent of the novel if my translation made it easy to comprehend," Dai said, according to a transcript the Shanghai People's Publishing House posted online.
Despite a waning interest in foreign literature over the past couple of decades, the Shanghai News and Publishing Bureau said the novel's sales in Shanghai last week were second only to a new biography of Deng Xiaoping in the category of "good books," a term reserved for more serious reads.
The book, widely considered Joyce's most experimental and inscrutable work, was promoted by an unusual billboard campaign in major Chinese cities- with 16 of them in Shanghai alone. The official Xinhua News agency said it was the first time a book had been promoted that way in China.
Some critics say the surprise hit has pandered to a superficial demand among some Chinese for high-brow imports.
"Pushed by a current of unprecedented vanity," is how Shanghai native and New York-based writer Li Jie described the "Finnegans Wake" phenomenon in a post on his microblog.
"It's beyond my comprehension that a niche work should cause a sales tsunami," Li Weiqi, a bank employee and an avid reader from Shanghai, wrote on his microblog after he spotted a huge outdoor lightbox advertisement for the novel. "Might it be that it's being hawked as a commodity to attract the pretentious?"
He added, "I am sure I cannot decipher the novel, not even a word."
Murong Xuecun, a renowned Chinese author and critic, is planning to get a copy of the translated novel.
"It has the reputation of being inscrutable, and people are so curious they want to read it themselves," Murong said. "I am sure that's universal around the world. It does not say the Chinese readers have a higher taste."
The demand for translations of foreign-language novels exploded during an opening-up period in the 1980s and 1990s when China was eager for new thought. Joyce's "Ulysses" was warmly received when it was first translated in the mid-1990s.
But the zeal for foreign literature has slowed, as Chinese get more connected to the world and- as prosperity increases- they turn their attention to more pragmatic or entertaining reads.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Dose of Venom: Montero's clutch hit highlights Diamondbacks' comeback win over Tigers
- Diamondbacks surpass Tigers in wild 8th inning: By The Numbers
- Diamondbacks' Kirk Gibson: Aaron Hill has 'swung the bat better,' been more patient
- Paul Goldschmidt named D-backs winner for Heart and Hustle Award
- Arizona Diamondbacks manager Gibson: If Brandon McCarthy wanted to throw the cutter, he should have thrown the cutter
- Kirk Gibson- D-backs Manager - Tuesday July 22Did the D-backs tell Brandon McCarthy not to throw his cutter?
- Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs first baseman - Friday July 18Paul Goldschmidt talks about the All-Star Game and his expectations for the season's second half.
- Our Guy Harry - Thursday July 17Our Guy Harry joins Dan and Vince in studio.
- Derrick Hall, D-backs president & CEO - Thursday July 17Derrick Hall on Paul Goldschmidt's leadership abilities and the future of Brad Ziegler.
- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN MLB insider - Wednesday July 16ESPN MLB insider Tim Kurkjian discusses Derek Jeter’s impact on the MLB.
- Bickley Blast - Wednesday July 16Did Adam Wainwright intentionally give Derek Jeter a pitch to hit in Tuesday night's All-Star Game?
- Tony La Russa, D-backs Chief Baseball Officer - Wednesday July 16D-backs CBO Tony La Russa talks about Tuesday’s All-Star Game.